What You Need to Know Before Applying to Nursing School

What You Need to Know Before Applying to Nursing School

You’re passionate about becoming a nurse, and you’ve found the perfect nursing program for you — one that will instill in you the knowledge, skills and values needed to be a leader in today’s complex healthcare environment.

However, as enthusiastic as you may be to answer the call to become a nurse, applying to nursing school is not to be taken lightly — especially when vying for a spot in a highly competitive, top-tier program like Marquette University’s Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

To help you get into your dream school, we’ll be taking a look at what makes a strong nursing school application, including:

  • What you need to do before you can begin the formal application process
  • Creating a NursingCAS account and profile
  • Gathering the necessary documentation (including transcripts and referrals)
  • Writing your resume and statement of goals

Prior to Applying to Nursing School

What you do before you apply is as important as the application, and that begins with talking to an admissions adviser to determine a good fit and to find out what, if anything, you need to do to meet the program requirements.

Talk to an admissions adviser.

When you call to learn more about Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program, you’ll be assigned an adviser, who will be in close contact with you throughout the nursing school admissions process. During your initial call, your adviser will take time to get to know you and to learn about your previous education, your reasons for wanting to become a nurse and your interest in the program. He or she will also want to know that you understand the commitment required, in terms of both time and effort.

Akilah Allen - Direct Entry MSN program admissions adviser

What sets Marquette apart from other nursing programs is the amount of support that students have. We are there from the beginning, all the way up until they’re admitted into the program.
Akilah Allen, Direct Entry MSN program admissions adviser

Fulfill the admissions requirements.

Assuming you are a good fit, your adviser will ask you to send copies of your unofficial transcripts. During a follow-up call, you’ll work together to create a plan for getting into the program. Depending on your previous degree and GPA, this could mean completing any unmet prerequisite courses, retaking certain courses or taking the GRE® General Test.

“We really like to see As or Bs in the sciences, especially Anatomy and Physiology,” explains Kathleen Muglia, DNP, APRN, Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Director for Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program. “If a student gets a B- or below in Physiology, we like to see them retake it.”

Preparing a Strong Nursing School Application

Once you’ve talked to an admissions adviser, created an academic plan and fulfilled any unmet requirements, it’s time to begin the formal application process.

Create your NursingCAS profile.

To streamline the nursing school application process, Marquette University uses NursingCAS, an online portal that allows prospective students to apply to multiple schools using the same user profile. While your admissions adviser will provide you guidance on when and how to apply for the Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie, it doesn’t hurt to get a head start by creating an account and familiarizing yourself with the system and requirements. In addition to creating a detailed profile, you will use the NursingCAS portal to submit your official transcripts, resume, statement of goals and GRE General Test results, as well as to request references and more.

Success Tip: Don’t short-change yourself.
Within the Supporting Information section of your profile, you’ll be asked to list achievements, experiences, and professional licensures and certifications. Be thorough when filling out this section, as it might just give you the competitive edge you need to get in. “We look to see if the applicant has had enough exposure to the field of nursing,” says Dr. Muglia. “If they have worked as a CNA, patient care technician, medical assistant, etc., that will demonstrate good exposure. Job shadowing is great, but it may be too limited. Did the applicant follow one nurse for one hour, or did they follow 10 different nurses, NPs, etc., for a longer period of time?”

NursingCAS.org - Account dashboardNursingCAS – My Application Dashboard

NursingCAS.org - Account dashboard - ExperiencesNursingCAS – Experiences Page

Request your official transcripts.

Early in the admissions process, you sent your adviser your unofficial transcripts. Now it’s time to gather your official school transcripts. To ensure you submit your application in time for your desired program start, NursingCAS recommends that you request your official transcripts no later than five weeks prior to the application deadline. For further instructions on this crucial step, review the guidelines for Sending Official Transcripts to NursingCAS.

What’s the difference between official vs. unofficial transcripts?
In essence, any transcript in your possession is “unofficial,” even if it bears the school’s official seal. For a transcript to be considered “official,” it must be sent directly to NursingCAS from your school, either electronically or via mail depending on where you are applying.

In addition to requesting your official transcripts, you must also manually input your coursework — a common requirement for many health programs. Be aware that you are responsible for accurately entering the required transcript details, so take your time and double-check that everything is correct before saving.

Craft a compelling resume and statement of professional goals.

Your resume and statement of goals say a lot about you. It goes without saying that these documents should be free of any typos or grammatical and punctuation errors; however, a strong nursing application requires more than just attention to detail. Nursing schools want to know that you are serious about the profession.

“It’s not a career that you can just be in for the money. You have to live and breathe nursing,” says Akilah. “You have to have a passion for nursing.”

Dr. Muglia adds that, “We are looking to see if the applicant understands what nursing is all about. Why does the applicant want to go into nursing? Many students describe wanting to care for patients as the reason for their choice. Being compassionate is very important, but nursing is an art and a science that requires high levels of critical thinking.”

Furthermore, she says, “Applicants should have clear goals which demonstrate they understand the role of nurses and advanced practice nurses.” These goals might include becoming a nurse leader or manager, or continuing on to earn a PhD, DNP or nurse practitioner certification. “In other words,” she asks, “why a master’s program and not a bachelor’s nursing program?”

Dr. Muglia also recommends that students explain how their values align with those of Marquette. “Do they understand the mission and values of our university and how it is different from other universities?”

As one final tip, she notes that this is an applicant’s opportunity to explain any weak spots in his or her transcript. “If there are any areas in the transcript that show a weakness, the applicant should describe the situation. For example, ‘I struggled in the first semester of my bachelor’s program due to an illness, but then improved my next three years.’”

7 Tips for Writing a Standout Nursing School Statement of Goals

    1. Demonstrate a passion for nursing.
    2. Leverage your past experiences.
    3. Have clear goals that show you understand the role of nurses.
    4. State why you are seeking an MSN degree rather than a BSN.
    5. Answer the question, “Why Marquette?”
    6. Explain any weak spots on your transcript.
    7. Proofread, and then proofread it again!

Request at least three letters of recommendation.

Not just anyone can be a Marquette nurse. We want to know you have what it takes to succeed in our Direct Entry MSN program, which is why we require at least three (and up to five) professional referrals. These should be either current or former coworkers, or teachers, who can vouch for your character, integrity and work ethic.

Success Tip: Give your references a heads up!
No one likes to be surprised with a last-minute request. Not only that, there are many reasons a potential referrer might not see your request in time (or at all). Because your reference requests will be sent directly from NursingCAS, it’s also possible a request may go to a referrer’s spam folder and never be seen. Before identifying referrers, make sure they’d be willing to refer you, and then follow up to let them know when they should expect an email from NursingCAS.

Create a Marquette University Graduate School online application.

Prior to submitting your completed NursingCAS application, you will also need to create a Marquette University Graduate School account and fill out the online application. When doing so, be sure to:

  • Use the exact name and email you used for your NursingCAS application.
  • Select NursingCAS Supplemental Application from the list of application types.

Submit your NursingCAS application.

Once you have completed the online application and uploaded your resume and statement of goals, and NursingCAS has received your official transcripts and references, it’s time to submit your application. However, before doing so, it’s a good idea to do one last review to make sure everything is correct.

Hopefully, this helps you to better understand the process of applying to nursing school and what you need to succeed.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Marquette Nurse?

Give us a call today to learn more about how you can leverage your non-nursing bachelor’s degree to earn an MSN in as few as 21 months with Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program.

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